Arenaviruses initiate infection by delivering a transcriptionally competent ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex into the cytosol of host cells. The arenavirus RNP consists of the large (L) RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) bound to a nucleoprotein (NP)-encapsidated genomic RNA (viral RNA [vRNA]) template. During transcription and replication, L must transiently displace RNA-bound NP to allow for template access into the RdRP active site. Concomitant with RNA replication, new subunits of NP must be added to the nascent complementary RNAs (cRNA) as they emerge from the product exit channel of L. Interactions between L and NP thus play a central role in arenavirus gene expression. We developed an approach to purify recombinant functional RNPs from mammalian cells in culture using a synthetic vRNA and affinity-tagged L and NP. Negative-stain electron microscopy of purified RNPs revealed they adopt diverse and flexible structures, like RNPs of other Bunyavirales members. Monodispersed L-NP and trimeric ring-like NP complexes were also obtained in excess of flexible RNPs, suggesting that these heterodimeric structures self-assemble in the absence of suitable RNA templates. This work allows for further biochemical analysis of the interaction between arenavirus L and NP proteins and provides a framework for future high-resolution structural analyses of this replication-associated complex.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01054-21
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Arenavirus
  • Gene expression
  • Machupo virus
  • Negative-strand RNA virus
  • Nucleoprotein
  • RNA-dependent RNA polymerase
  • Replication
  • Ribonucleoprotein complex


Dive into the research topics of 'Isolation of reconstructed functional ribonucleoprotein complexes of Machupo virus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this